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IOL Wessex

IOL Wessex Home Page

Outdoor Learning in Wessex

The Wessex region is full of character with landscape of open downland, plain and scarp, wooded plateaus, high chalk plains, vales, river valleys, and lowland mosaic and a Jurassic Coast world heritage site. The unique geography and geology of the region is home to a wide array of providers including, commercial residential centres, adventure challenge courses, educational establishments delivering bespoke outdoor courses, voluntary organisations, clubs and individual practitioners who deliver a diverse range of high quality outdoor learning opportunities.

The voluntary committee represents IOL in your region, get in touch with us. We wish to represent your views.

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Wessex Regional News

Impact of Current Educational Visits Guidance - Survey Results
/ Categories: Latest News, Members News

Impact of Current Educational Visits Guidance - Survey Results


The school travel sector is a £700m+ sector spanning private, charity and local authority provision. Together, this range of providers account for 16,000 jobs (pre- pandemic) and deliver over 2m educational visits undertaken by young people annually. Educational visits represent 89% of turnover for the sector.

1. The current guidance against educational visits, in its various forms, has therefore been a disaster for the sector, with over £600m of revenue lost due to cancelled bookings. The number of businesses and centres closing is accelerating.

2. Sector surveys in the past 3 months have drawn responses from providers that account for £590m off the sector’s annual turnover.


UKOutdoors Sector Impact Surveys

November 2020 & January 2021

The Institute for Outdoor Learning has undertaken two extensive surveys of the residential Outdoor Learning sector to ascertain the impact of Department for Education guidance and the pandemic on school travel provision by the sector.

The surveys, undertaken in November 2020 and January 2021, covered over 200 organisations and 223 centres. Together they account for £320m of sector turnover, 10,000 jobs and 1.8m annual customers. The sample size has provided a data set highly representative of the wider school travel sector’s current state.

The January 2021 survey produced the following key findings:

· Sector relies on educational visits for 82% of revenue

· Many providers are still holding bookings for summer 2021 worth £77.5m. This represents at least 1.3m activity days for children and young people

· This summer 2021 position is fragile as for 1⁄2 of providers 55% or more of these bookings have been rolled over from 2020 with no additional deposit income to support their provision

· Should government guidance mean that summer 2021 bookings are undeliverable, providers are liable to repay a minimum of £20m of liabilities, compared to receiving an additional £40m of revenue if trips should go ahead – a delta of £60m

· If insurance was available from the beginning of the summer term this would underwrite around £27m of residential monies paid for future trips

· Over 70% of providers to whom it is relevant need a repayment plan solution with HMRC

· Local authorities are reviewing their provision and closing or pulling out of running centres, increasingly turning to private providers in an open market. This is increasing the risk of a loss of access for more children and young people with the current vulnerabilities of the private sector

The January 2021 survey expanded questioning from the November 2020 survey to update the impact of ongoing restrictions and lack of certainty over a sector restart. The January 2021 findings reinforce the November 2020 position and make it very clear that the viability of the sector is increasingly threatened. This is further evidenced by the ongoing loss of historically viable outdoor education centre organisations.

For reference, the November 2020 survey, now superseded, produced the following key findings:

· Two thirds of providers expect their income for 2020 to be down over 80% year on year

· The exposure to no school visits is very significant:

o One third of providers are ‘dedicated’ to residential school visits provision as it makes up over 90% of their income

o Over 80% of providers rely on residential school visits for at least half of their income

· The resilience of the sector is very low with half of all respondents expecting their reserves in April 2021 to be less than 20% of the February 2020 levels

· The historic viability of the sector’s business models is particularly good with 85% demonstrating sustainable (i.e. profit/surplus generating) positions in all 3 years pre-COVID

· This is a sector already taking desperate measures:

o 61% of organisations have made staff redundant

o 50% have used pay cuts to save costs

o 30% have disposed of assets to generate income

· Less than half of providers have been able to access Local Restrictions Support Grants (Local Authority discretion) and less than a third of providers have been able to access sector specific Local Restrictions Support Grants.

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Wessex Committee

Contact IOL Wessex


Go to the Wessex Facebook page for pictures, videos, reports and updates.


Warwick Mill Business Centre, Warwick Bridge, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA4 8RR

+44 (0)1228 564580



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